With the launch of iOS 11.2, Apple fired another salvo in an ongoing war. Apple Pay Cash takes aim at payment platforms such as Venmo and Zelle Pay. If you are an Apple user, you can now send money to your friends and family by text message. Apple is not the only company engaged in creating a network platform. Today, the platform is the business. An average person has 5 social media accounts and multiple subscriptions.
Tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Amazon are busy creating massive global platforms that are nations unto themselves. Every time we post, search or buy, we vote for the success of the platform irrespective of the impact on our lives. Each of these platforms had a humble beginning but now humbles countries when it comes to size.
With technology changing every day, it is hard to be bound to one ecosystem. Consumers are growing increasingly fickle and understandably so. These macro trends mean every business model has to morph into a platform where users ride the train until the next stop. Volvo recently launched a pay-as-you go car. A program which is very similar in design to the Apple annual upgrade program.
However, think about the value you give to each platform while forgetting that you are a platform unto yourself. A source which sends and receives value from people connected to your network. The way you spend the most valuable commodity today i.e. your time will influence the connections you make and your own value to society and business. Therefore, choose wisely with an eye towards the future. While tech giants continue their march into your personal life, it’s time to harness your own power and put it to productive use. Without the right education, every platform becomes obsolete. It is time to reclaim your life by making the right choices because you are your own ultimate global platform.
This article provides tips on how to build your own platform, frameworks to value platforms and highlights the need to judiciously allocate your time to productive activities by reducing overuse of technology.
Playing On Mud Fields
As a teenager, I have fond memories of playing cricket on mud fields. The fields were rarely plowed. They were uneven with mud flying in spurts as I ran from end of the pitch to the other scoring a run. Understandably, my white clothes had mud stains all over them. My mother would grumble but clean them anyway. It was an average teenager’s happy life spent outdoors playing with friends. The power of an unfettered mind that could imagine.
Around 730 PM every night, I could spot my mother impeccably perched on a balcony shouting my name and instructing me to come back, complete my homework and have dinner. This was a time when the internet was in it’s infancy and the world was without the iPhone. I had a real network of friends and the gift of imagination.
Platforms that leave nothing to the imagination end up killing your imagination
As I grew up, I could not help but notice my failing attempts to restrict my usage of technology and social media. So much so that, my muteness was only broken by the clicking of keys on a laptop which made my laptop more livelier than I was.
Metcalfe’s Law derives it’s name from its creator Robert Metcalfe. Metcalfe is an electrical engineer who founded the Ethernet. According to his law, the value of a telephone network is equal to the square of telephone connections For example, if a telecom provider has 10 telephones its value would be 100 (10 *10), but if another network had 1000 machines its value would be 1,000,00 and so on.
While this law may not be accurate, it provides you a great framework to value platforms and the value of your own network in case you are an artist or influencer.
Let’s take an example, if Facebook has approximately 2.7 billion average active users over a quarter, it’s value (using revenue as a proxy) would be 2.7*2.7 = $7.29 billion dollars for a quarter. Multiply that by 4 quarters and you get $29.16 billion which is very close to Facebook’s actual 2016 revenue of $27 billion in 2016.
Linguist George Kingsley Zipf formulated a law which states that the probability of encountering a word ‘rth’ most common word in a language is given by P(r) = 0.1/r for first 1000 words or so. As per Wikipedia:
“Zipf’s law states that given some corpus of natural language utterances, the frequency of any word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table. Thus the most frequent word will occur approximately twice as often as the second most frequent word, three times as often as the third most frequent word, etc.: the rank-frequency distribution is an inverse relation”
The value of social networks or other platforms could lie between it’s value using the Metcalf Law and that calculated using Zipf’s law. My intention is not to be prescriptive but to help you think about ascribing a relative value of a platform. There are many other models such as Sarnoff’s function, Reed’s function, Odlyzko’s law etc. which can be applied in case you want to dig deeper
Law Of Diminishing Marginal Returns
A simple economic law which I think is really common sense is the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility.
The BASIC framework explains the key technologies transforming life as we know it: Blockchain, AI, Security, Internet of Things and Cloud Computing. However, overuse of any of these technologies has diminishing utility to society in general.
Time Well Spent offers many tips to regain control of your life by reducing exposure to social media and cell phones. Time Well Spent is a platform created by an ex-Google Design Ethicist Tristan Harris who left Google to raise awareness on what technology is doing to us.
How I Read
I read news with an unconditioned mind which means I read the news for the facts. In a service based economy, it is impossible not to be in the know. So, I read news by mentally debugging my biases. In other words, I read news for the facts that they provide without color or bias. Each time I become judgmental, my mind enters a debugging mode and I suspend judgement and glean the facts. Much like the statue of justice which is blind to bias. It hears everything but avoids judgment until the very end.
To understand color, I follow the old fashioned way. I read books. International literature including the classics introduce me to the real world through the perspective of the narrator — someone who is much more closer to a situation than I will ever be. In addition, reading books has made me a permanent empath. I can understand where people are coming from without actually being there. For instance, my friendships with my Japanese friends began by me thanking them in Japanese as “Domo Arigato”each time they helped me. These friendships blossomed as a result of intense conversations around the Meiji restoration. They gained an outsider’s perspective while I gained that of an insider.
You Are The Ultimate Global Platform
When I started blogging, I had no followers. Today, sharing my world view with others has given me a global platform to connect and share experiences. I receive responses from all across the world and enjoying incorporating diverse perspectives into my writing. It, truly, is a two way street.
There is true power in a platform of one. For instance, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai all but lost her life. Today, she has become a platform unto herself. A beacon of courage and a spokesperson for women’s education around the world. One individual can create a Tsunami of change. I can cite many examples including Satoshi Nakamoto, Vitalik Buterin, Gandhi, Einstein etc. Treat yourself as a platform for change to be the change you want to see around you.
To begin with, a platform has to necessarily give without expectation first. Facebook and Google had to acquire a user base by offering value (perceived or real) for free before they could even build a revenue stream i.e. advertising. Many people today say that we post on Facebook to the benefit of Facebook’s profits without necessarily benefiting ourselves. That may be true but it also undermines the value of the initial efforts of entrepreneurs establishing the platform. I am not patronizing any particular platform but encouraging people to find a happy medium for using a tool that can be a double edged sword. However, every platform has unintended use cases and consequences.
You have to become a source of immense and unconditional value to establish a brand, create a network of deep relationships that can count on you no matter what before enjoying the true equity of your platform.
Your value is directly correlated to the way you spend your time making trade-offs in the process. Think about spending 15 minutes that you would spend on social media doing something else i.e. meditating, learning a programming language, reading books or simply take a break and recharge. Every choice you make will impact your value as a platform. In addition, spending the first thirty minutes of your waking life working out will make you immensely productive and healthy.
A New Promise
Giving has been a Karmic blessing for me. I can claim, without malice, that providing value to people unconditionally has proven to be the single biggest act of building my own platform.
I specifically chose the month of December to pen my thoughts around creating a new you. As you wind down for the holidays and enjoy time with friends and family, think about how you can take small incremental steps to enhance your value as a brand, as a platform and more importantly as an empathetic human.
The power of habits is commonly known but the power of a different mindset has no limits. The biggest gift you can give anyone this holiday season is the inspiration to create his/her own unique and powerful platform. The inspiration to dream and to help. Unconditionally.